One Toothbrush For 49 Kids: Sickening Plight Of Govt Homes

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New Delhi: The sickening plight of government homes still haunts National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Justice H L Dattu. As a judge of the Supreme Court two years ago, he witnessed 49 children using one toothbrush and a single tube of toothpaste.

 “It is not important to say in which state I saw 49 children using one toothbrush as that is the condition in most government-aided or government-run homes housing disabled children, who are the most neglected lot,” Justice Dattu told TOI.

“There is no dearth of government grant for upkeep of facilities at the homes for disabled and senior citizens,” he said, citing the experience he gained after visiting old-age homes daily and spending time with the inmates to give them hope and confidence to lead a cheerful life.

“What we need to stop is pilferage of the money, and (instead) use it to improve the basic facilities for senior citizens and disabled persons,” the NHRC chief said. After his retirement as Chief Justice of India in December and before his appointment as NHRC chairperson in February, Justice Dattu spent time every day in old-age homes near Bengaluru.

“An inmate of one of the old-age homes told me that his two sons were very well placed and earning a lot, but neither was keen on keeping him with their family. This is the story in many well-to-do families. What that person needed in old age was a confidence-booster given daily by an expert counsellor. We need to have such experts in every old-age home, who will listen to them and give them hope and confidence to live the sunset years of their life with equal vigour,” he said.

Since assuming charge at NHRC, Justice Dattu has held several meetings with other members — justices Cyriac Joseph and D Murugesan and former IPS officer S C Sinha — on these issues. The NHRC has written to its special rapporteurs across states to visit homes for senior citizens and disabled children, and give a report on the basic facilities available there. “Prima facie the living conditions in these homes are pitiable,” Justice Dattu said. The NHRC chief has also activated the core group of experts attached with the apex human rights body for suggestions to improve the condition of these homes.

“It will be one of the happiest moments in my life if the NHRC makes a difference to the living conditions in old-age homes and the homes for disabled children,” he said. The Centre, under Deendayal Rehabilitation Scheme, gives aid to 421 NGOs which run 502 projects, including special and residential schools for physically challenged children.

The number of old-age homes has been steadily declining. From 269 homes getting assistance in 2012-13, the number came down to 137 in 2014-15.